The number of high powered expats is set to increase as international companies are expecting to post many more executives abroad in the next five years, according to a new research report.
They will be responding to the need to move beyond stagnating Western markets and expand into China, India and other major emerging markets, says the report Up or out: next moves for the modern expatriate, from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Regus.
Almost four out of ten, some 39%, of companies plan to increase their expat staff over the next five years, the research found after questioning 418 senior executives with responsibility for overseas offices.
Companies are far more likely to send expat staff to China, India and other Asian countries than to any other emerging market region. The Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe combined are the next most common destinations.
However, around three in five expats believe that their corporate HQ does not sufficiently grasp the nature of the local business environment. One in three complains of excessive interference.
It found that more than half of expats are sent to a particular destination for a period of between two and five years. But there has been a rise in flexible working practices such as short term and commuter assignments.
Nearly three quarters of survey respondents believe that cultural sensitivity is the most important attribute that an expat needs.
‘Expatriate strategies provide an insight into broader trends in globalisation whether it’s the regions companies are investing in or the daily operational challenges involved in setting up an office,’ said Paul Lewis, managing editor of Executive Briefing at the Economic Intelligence Unit and editor of the report.
It reveals that getting the right talent in the right place for the right length of time involves an array of decisions and experimentation around the design of expat assignments and the location and nature of these roles.
‘This survey shows that globalisation is forcing companies to review their approach to where they locate their operations and how they manage human resources and property. The needs of global, mobile and flexible workers are exacerbating the challenge of providing a right sized workplace infrastructure for a reasonable cost,’ said Mark Dixon, global chief executive officer of Regus.
It also reveals that executives are keen to be part of the global and mobile working trend. Four in five executives believe that an assignment in a major emerging market aids career progression.